Researching with 'Local' AssociatesPower, Trust and Data in an Interpretive Project on Communities’ Conflict Knowledge in Myanmar

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Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages26
JournalCivil Wars
Early online date13 May 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 May 2020
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This article discusses the merits and challenges of research into violent conflict, which gives local research associates a central, fairly independent role at the data-generating stage of qualitative-interpretive research. Specifically, we reflect on our collaboration with three Burmese research associates in organising and implementing two arts-based workshops with participants from violence-affected communities in Myanmar’s states of Kachin and Rakhine. We focus on how multi-directional power flows, dynamics of trust/mistrust, negotiations over an epistemological common ground, and the context of research in a controlling semi-authoritarian state shaped the way in which the workshops unfolded, which in turn co-determined what kind of textual and visual data was ultimately gathered. We conclude that research in ‘mixed teams’ of western researchers and local research associates is able to overcome some of the limitations of conflict research by cultural outsiders (e.g., issues of trust-building with research participants, language and cultural understanding), but that especially in short-term projects these merits may come at the price of ‘losing control’ over the quality and type of research data, with both positive and negative effects.